The debate, or the battle, I should rather say, around the world cup has been a fascinating one. At first I could not understand why the Rugby World Cup Ltd. (RWCL) would want to limit the number of images being distributed. Furthermore, I could not see how they would ever be able to monitor, unless if they physically had someone behind each outlet counting the images. Which I doubt they would have. In sports, more than anywhere, there is always a better picture coming up as it is completely linked to the scoreboard. Insane, I thought. This is Rugby thinking they are Hollywood stars and needing to control their image.
As all this was happening during VISA, I was very agreeably pleased to see the photo agencies, usually aggressive competitors, immediately bonding together in a global boycott in order to change the ridiculous conditions imposed upon them. A very rare occurrence. Needless to say the boycott worked although the RWCL had hired Getty to cover all the games and could have just rely on them.
But the really interesting part of this struggle was the RWCL fear that with current technology, a website could almost display the game live using still photograph, thus competing with live television . PA photos, for example, has created an off line editing tool that allows an image of soccer to be on your cell phone within 2 seconds. Currently being used mostly during the soccer season in England, it is mostly used to send pictures of goals when they happen. But this technology could be rapidily transformed to display an entire game. Reuters has an equivalent system and quite frankly other photo agencies could have a similar system with some dedicated R & D.
So where does this bring us ? A lot of industry experts have declared that soon photography will be replaced by video and that there will be no need for still cameras. This xample is the first one that shows that the two are not from the same family but highly incompatible. If major TV networks will pay millions of dollars to transmitt a game, or a concert live, surely they will not accept a photo agency to help a website to do the same. Furthermore, as much as it is rather easy for an editor to edit a sequence of still photographs, I cannot see someone looking at a video feed to extract the right stills. And this, only if the sports leagues, concert organizers, award show producers and others would allow video cameras.
Photography is only accepted in these event as long as they do not compete with a video feed. Thus I highly doubt that we will ever see a photographer trade is camera for a high end video camera.